Tips for Training in Heat and Humidity:  A Benefit for Run Far Runners

One of the benefits of running and training in Charlotte in the summer is that we have the added challenge of training when there is heat and humidity. You say:  “How can this be a benefit?  Heat and humidity are the worst possible training conditions!!!”  Exactly, they are, but as you adapt to these weather challenges, your fitness will improve and you will become efficient in your workouts.  Once the humidity goes down later in our training, you will see a dramatic improvement in your pace and your overall performance. Come September, you will be very happy you were consistent in training on those muggy, steamy, ugly mornings.  That is a promise. I can tell you many stories about my experience training and running races in heat, humidity and other hard conditions. Some examples:  Badwater 135 mile ultra run in July in Death Valley (110-120 degrees), 12 Western States 100 milers where temperatures most often exceed 105 degrees, and even some of our east coast marathons like Chicago, Marine Corps, and Boston have had 90 degree race days.  Some time on our runs, ask me on how I prepared for heat, how I survived, and how I succeeded with some fantastic race performances! Heat training works and makes us better runners!! The entire point of training for a half or full marathon is to prepare ourselves the best we possibly can so we will have great success in our target race(s).  A big part of training is adding challenge (or stress) to our runs. Over the course of the 24 week training program, we will add more stress in terms of mileage and intensity of the workouts.  We also allow time for the body to recover and adapt through rest days, cross training, and very easy recovery runs.  So, Heat and Humidity add an element of stress which will help us be stronger and more fit.  That is why I say we are blessed with having heat and humidity early in our training as we are gradually building up this mileage and intensity.  But there are dangers with running in the heat, especially if there is humidity.  Heat can hurt:  Heat cramps, Heat exhaustion, and Heat stroke are very real dangers.  We need to be careful we ease into this training season to avoid any heat related issues.  So what are some tips to do this?

Here are my tips for training in the heat:

Run at the coolest part of the day.  This is in the morning right before the sun comes up or shortly after the sun comes up.  Tuesdays and Thursdays, we start at 5:30 AM and soon on Saturdays we will start our runs at 6:00 AM.  We will  beat the heat in terms of time of day.

Hydrate before the run, during the run, and after the run.  You have already heard our talk on carrying water or fluid replacement. We will  have water and Gatorade out on the Saturday long runs, usually every 3 miles or so. Drink some fluids before the run..1-2 glasses.

Water alone is not enough.  We need to balance our electrolytes.  Gatorade can help with this.  So can electrolyte capsules.  I use a product called Endurolytes.  RFYL carries them.  There are other products as well. At out our hydration seminar, there will be more information on these products.

Run at a slower pace in the heat and humidity.

Run a shorter distance or shorten the intensity of the workout.  On extreme days, it is likely we will adjust our Tuesday/Thursday planned workouts.

If you are running during the day, find a shady route to do your workouts.  Tuesday/Thursday should not be a problem as we are done by 6:30 AM.  For Saturday, we have some good shady routes that we will be using.

For those who cannot make the morning mid week runs and end up with mid day workouts, do them inside if you can.  I know treadmills are dreadmills, but you are out of the sun, heat, and humidity. Lesser of the evils.

Wear loose, light color fabrics that wick sweat away.  There are also some new products that you can buy called cooling towels.  They claim they can help lower body temperatures.

Most importantly, listen to your body!!  If you feel dizzy, light headed, cramping, etc, stop the workout.  Let your coach or peer runners know.  It may not be the day for a workout.  Pushing through a specific workout when you are not feeling it due to weather is not the thing to do.  We have a long schedule and missing a workout due to weather may be the very best thing for you.

Over the coming weeks, you will adapt or acclimate to the heat.  Experts say it takes 10 -15 workouts with heat present to adapt.  Each of us is different.  Experts also say the fitter you are, the more you sweat.  If that is true, then we have some very fit runners in our group including yours truly.  In the end, we will not change Mother Nature, so let’s acclimate using our training schedule and common sense as we train in this heat and humidity.